vapor phase cleaning before
vapor phase cleaning after
StudyVapor Phase Cleaning
LocationLamont County, Alberta
ServiceRailcar Cleaning


Vapor Phase Cleaning

Rail cars that carry oil and gas products must be cleaned before carrying another type of product or being put into storage. If the rail car previously carried heavy crude but may carry a light crude in the future or if the rail car will be put into storage, then the interior must be completely cleaned. In July 2018, a client approached us with a request to clean approximately 45 railcars undergoing a service change from crude oil service.

Typically, the cleaning process involves:
  • Drain crude oil from the vessel
  • Ventilate tank using top manway
  • Perform tank entry to scrape and shovel out leftover crude oil
  • Steam the vessel for many hours to remove residue
  • Caustic wash with spray nozzle
  • Compressed Air used to dry tank

Initially agreed with the customer on using the gamma jet application to spray clean the vessel. While moderate success was achieved, the process was time consuming and costly due to water consumption.


We presented a vapor phase cleaning process to restore hydrocarbon fouled tank vessel railcars back to their original state for return to the leaseholder. We were able to recognize the benefits of using a vapor phasing method for this application.

Vapor phase is the application of chemistry infused steam that applies heat for emulsifying deposits and chemistry to pull away oil fouling.

This method is commonly used in cases where removal of lighter deposits is necessary and large surface area coverage is required. Other equipment where vapor phase can be applicable include columns, reactors, heat exchangers, storage tanks, vessels, compressors, filters, piping, etc.


Blackstone Pipeline & Environmental Solutions utilized VaporClean chemistry for vapor phasing which made it safer for confined space entry. VaporClean is water based, non-flammable, removes H2S, emulsifies hydrocarbons, is biodegradable, and reduces LELs which increases the safety of the work environment.

Presenting the right tools with the right procedure the client was able to recognize the following benefits:

  • Reduced turnaround time from the typical method – from 1 railcar over 3 days to 2 railcars in 1 day
  • Reduce equipment onsite
  • Saved money
  • Decrease water requirement
  • Reduced waste